Magnetic resonance analysis of the effects of acute ammonia intoxication on rat brain. Role of NMDA receptors

J Neurochem. 2007 Nov;103(4):1334-43. doi: 10.1111/j.1471-4159.2007.04878.x. Epub 2007 Aug 28.


Acute ammonia intoxication leads to rapid death, which is prevented by blocking N-methyl-d-aspartate (NMDA) receptors. The subsequent mechanisms leading to death remain unclear. Brain edema seems an important step. The aim of this work was to study the effects of acute ammonia intoxication on different cerebral parameters in vivo using magnetic resonance and to assess which effects are mediated by NMDA receptors activation. To assess edema induction, we injected rats with ammonium acetate and measured apparent diffusion coefficient (ADC) in 16 brain areas. We also analyzed the effects on T1, T2, and T2* maps and whether these effects are prevented by blocking NMDA receptors. The effects of acute ammonia intoxication are different in different brain areas. T1 relaxation time is reduced in eight areas. T2 relaxation time is reduced only in ventral thalamus and globus pallidus. ADC values increased in hippocampus, caudate-putamen, substantia nigra and cerebellar cortex, reflecting vasogenic edema. ADC decreased in hypothalamus, reflecting cytotoxic edema. Myo-inositol increased in cerebellum and substantia nigra, reflecting vasogenic edema. N-acetyl-aspartate decreased in cerebellum, reflecting neuronal damage. Changes in N-acetyl-aspartate, T1 and T2 are prevented by blocking NMDA receptors with MK-801 while changes in ADC or myo-inositol (induction of edema) are not.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Ammonia / toxicity*
  • Animals
  • Brain / drug effects*
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate / physiology*


  • Receptors, N-Methyl-D-Aspartate
  • Ammonia